Beef Art: Bresaola

Beef Art: Bresaola

The Goal: Silky, paper thin, marinated, air-dried beef from the river cottage meat book

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Remember the huge crush I have on Paul Bertolli? And his tomatoes 12 ways project? And my idea to copy his idea using beef instead of tomatoes?

You thought I forgot about it didn’t you?  Well, I admit I’ve been slow to come up with a new way, but not to worry; I’m on it now.  And I’m especially excited about this one.

Everyone loves prosciutto, the paper-thin, silky, salty, air-cured ham from Italy.  But prosciutto’s less known beef cousin bresaola can be just as amazing.

Of course, leave it to our Italian friends to turn thinly sliced air-cured beef drizzled with olive oil & lemon juice into an art form while our American version of dried beef is known by millions of GIs as the main ingredient in a dish called Shit on a Shingle. What can I say? It doesn’t have to be that way…

Since I’m out of everything but burger at the moment, my eye of round is from Ron Gargasz Organic Farms just outside Slippery Rock, PA.  Now, don’t tell the Ladies I said this, and if you do I’ll never admit it, but the Angus cows at Ron Gargasz’s farm are pretty amazing too. They’ve never eaten anything but organic grass and hay grown right there at home and lead companionable, social lives. With plenty of doting too…

So, with a beautiful, grass-fed organic eye of round in my freezer, I’m not about to waste a chance to take an imaginary road trip to Italy.

The esteemed panel of experts on my bookshelf  had much to say about making Bresaola.  Sadly, just like he did when I made consommé, Paul Bertolli left me to fend for myself.  But Darina Allen, Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall, Josh and Jessica Applestone and Michael Ruhlman; they all had lots of good advice.

All four books have great recipes and a slightly different take on making bresaola.  I had a hard time making up my mind which one to follow, but ended up with Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall.  My super-close second was the Applestone’s recipe which was the only one to call for cold smoking the roast before air drying. Very intriguing and I will be trying it soon.

Why was I so taken with HFW’s recipe? The brine was a little more elaborate, without being ridiculous. I always hate to over season well-raised beef because I think it tastes so great as it is.  But the small amount of lemon zest, orange zest, bay leaves, black pepper and red pepper flakes in the wine & salt brine seemed like just the right blend to really call attention to the beef.  You may not agree, but I think there’s something magic about the combo of beef and orange zest… add red pepper flakes and oh, my.

So this week, I mixed up my brine and soaked that roast turning twice a day. Tomorrow begins the tricky air-drying process which will last three to four weeks. Then, if I don’t blow it, comes the best part of all, eating the bresaola!

Very exciting stuff for me. I know.  I know.  I  SHOULD get out more.

If you missed my other beefy adventures,  here they are:

Beef & Pork Belly Dan Barber’s Way

Corned Beef Tongue & Red Flannel Hash

Creamy Corned Beef (Tongue) Spread

Oxtail Consommé & My Very Favorite Ravioli Filling

beatrice: braveheart, bold or just plain bad?

beatrice: braveheart, bold or just plain bad?

You’ve been spotted – don’t think she’s going to let you get away

Here she comes… who’s she?? It’s beatrice…

xxxxxxpet me ladyxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxor I’ll butt your knees

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Come on lady, I don’t have all day – What are you waiting for??

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This weekend, I had to break down and mow some grass.  I admit it; I have developed a Scrooge-ish double hatred of mowing grass. First because now that I have cows to feed, grass = food.  Mowing grass feels like throwing food away and I have a real issue with  that.  Second because I hate wasting gas on something that could easily be performed by hand or by animal and that bugs me too. It was some green, juicy grass; the men would have happily done that job.

But alas, that field isn’t fenced and won’t be for a while, so while it pained me to do it, I had to break down and mow. But that’s not really the story.

The story is Beatrice.  Beatrice is one wacky heifer.  I thought Honey was the one who would end up knocking me on my can one day. But next to Beatrice, Honey is darn near shy.

Talk about gawky & awkward … here’s honey in all her teen-aged glory. All the calves go through a homely phase between one and two years, but my goodness. With a leggy, all elbows and knees look like this, surely she’ll be a supermodel one day…

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Honey went through a quad-chasing phase which was both funny and alarming, but she seems to have outgrown it. But even at her sassiest, Honey has a healthy respect for tractors, weed-whackers and other scary machinery. And the other “normal” calves? They stay far, far away from all that stuff.

Beatrice’s first week, she left the herd and her mom and chased the tractor all the way up the hill and to the gate after I delivered hay one morning. I had to get down and chase her away by flapping my arms, jumping around and yelling just so I could drive the tractor through the gate. And don’t think she took that without some head shaking sass.

The next unusual Beatrice encounter was when I had to take the weed-whacker and trim the grass under the electric fence. Most of the calves (and cows) are rightly fearful of me  with this scary-looking noisy gadget and keep their distance.  Not Beatrice.  She actually chased after me and wanted to get her face right into the action. Very odd.

Yesterday was the first time the calves have seen the brush hog at work. It’s noisy. And most calves think it’s scary.  Not you-know-who.

Beatrice saw that rig coming and ran right up to get a better look.  She chased me all the way along the fence line and looked really sad when I turned and drove away.  I can tell right now, pasture mowing will be a bit of a challenge with Beatrice around.

Are you talkin’ to me??

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Remember Beatrice’s kidnapping incident? I may owe Zay an apology accusing her of kidnapping and all. As unlikely as it was, Beatrice is just the sort of girl to sneak out and party all night leaving her mom crazy with worry….. sorry Zaymonster!

Easter Egg Glut? Pickle ’em!

Easter Egg Glut? Pickle ’em!

THINKING THURSDAY: SOMETHING TO PONDER IN THE WORLD OF FOOD AND FARMING.

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It’s time. Time for the springtime rituals of Easter baskets & hard-boiled eggs. Like chocolate bunnies, those eggs are everywhere and you can only eat so many egg-y things before either they or you go bad.

So, rather than avoiding waste by being stingy with the single healthy, natural thing in the standard-issue Easter basket, after the day is over, pickle the excess. Pickled eggs will keep for months, make sure none go to waste and add a powerful new culinary staple to your pantry.

I’ve gone through plenty of recipes seeking the perfect blend of simplicity and yumminess and what follows is my favorite. For now.  It’s a forgiving recipe though, so feel free to nip and tuck to suit yourself.

Like all simple recipes, the deliciousness is proportionate to the quality of the ingredients.  The number one most important step is this: start with great eggs. 

I am a believer in the power of the farm fresh, pastured egg. Of course, I’m lucky because my neighbor keeps a big flock of free ranging hens and is a generous sharer. Kind of like healthy mother culture, he gives me three dozen eggs, I return a pint of pickled eggs and my emptied egg cartons and the circle of life continues.  Don’t have a chicken-farming friend? You can find one here.

Since your whole reason for this glut of hard-boiled eggs is probably for the fun of dying the eggs with your kids, you should know it is not necessary to buy white eggs to make pretty dyed eggs. The brown shells will dye to softer shades, although yellows may be a little disappointing. Since most farm-fresh eggs are brown, this is a public service announcement designed to save you from the white battery hen eggs in the supermarket.

Once you have your awesome eggs, please pay extra special attention to the process of hard boiling the eggs. With a little extra care, your pickled eggs will be radiantly beautiful. Like pure sunshine, really.

Neglecting your eggs will create that icky green ring around the outside of the yolk which is a real downer for me.   Of course it makes no difference in the taste, and I’ll still gobble them up, but a beautiful ring-free yolk makes me really happy.

The Secret to Perfect Hard Boiled Eggs:

You may or may not know that freshly laid hard-boiled eggs are difficult to peel. They are – I kid you not. Try to store the eggs in the refrigerator for at least a week before boiling.  If you find that eggs you have already boiled just won’t peel nicely, store the cooked eggs in the refrigerator for a few days and they should become easier to peel.

Or, you may try steaming instead of boiling – this quickie from the always entertaining and informative Alton Brown brings up a few good pointers.  Note: Alton Brown is referring to store-bought eggs, so his advice about the freshness of the eggs is a little off for laid-today eggs from the farm. His tip about centering the yolks is right-on and one I learned the hard way.

I don’t steam my eggs because I really don’t have a good steamer, and I’m about to do three dozen, not four.  So, this is how I do it:

  1. Take the eggs out of the refrigerator for about an hour before starting.  To center the yolks, secure carton lids (a rubber band works well) and place the cartons on their sides. Otherwise, yolks may be too near the egg wall, causing you to break them when you peel the egg – not so good for pickled eggs, but no problem for egg salad.
  2. Use as many large pots as necessary to place eggs in a single layer and cover by at least an inch or two of cold water. Starting with cold water and bringing the eggs to a boil gently will help avoid shocking the eggs into cracking.
  3. I add a teaspoon of white vinegar and ½ teaspoon of salt to each pot.
  4. On high heat, bring to a boil and as soon as your water boils, cover pot and turn off the heat. (I have an electric stove. If you have gas, once the water reaches a boil, remove pot from flame. Turn down to low, return pot to burner and simmer for one minute.
  5. After the minute, remove from burner, cover and let sit for 12 minutes.
  6. While the eggs are resting, prepare an ice water bath large enough to accommodate all your eggs at once. You can use a large bowl, pot or even the sink if necessary.
  7. Remove the eggs using a slotted spoon and submerge in the ice bath to cool.

Peeling your eggs:

  1. Allow your eggs plenty of time to cool.
  2. Set up a bowl of clean, cold water and a container or bowl to store your peeled eggs
  3. I start by gently cracking the egg all over and starting at the wide end. If you’re lucky, the shell will gently peel away from the egg, leaving a smooth shiny surface. Rinse in the water & place in the storage container. Repeat.
  4. If you’re not lucky, the shell will cling to the egg and tear the flesh of the egg leaving a knobby messy looking egg. Still tastes good, but not quite so beautiful. If this is the case, after creating the opening, dip into the water as needed to keep everything moist & slippery. Try sliding a spoon gently under the shell and carefully lifting the shell away from the egg.  Be patient and gentle and you should be successful.
  5. Occasionally, your best efforts will fail. Try tucking the cooked eggs back into the fridge for a few more days and you should have better luck. Or, if you just want to eat the eggs and can live with their funky look, do your best and soldier on.

Pickling your eggs:

I’ve tried lots of different recipes and this is my favorite for both flavor and ease.  I am a huge fan of the pickled vegetables you get in restaurants in Mexico so like to add some carrots, chiles and garlic to my eggs. The pickled carrots are a tender-crisp treat and a colorful addition to whatever I end up making with the pickled eggs.

Click here for a printable recipe

Storing your eggs safely:

I am the first to admit I may be a little too fearless when it comes to food safety. I have been making pickled eggs for some time and had been storing them on a shelf in my basement.   But apparently the National Center for Home Preservation doesn’t share my confidence in non-refrigerated storage. If you’re new to preserving, check out their website and this page on pickled eggs – it’s an invaluable free resource.

Eating your pickled eggs & carrots:

xPickled Egg Sandwichxxxpaired with Green Beansxxand vinaigrette slaw

My favorite ways to eat pickled eggs:

  • Pickled Egg Sandwich: slather a slice of good, toasted white bread with mayonnaise (gold stars for homemade bread AND mayo), slice a pickled egg on top, toss a few of the carrots & chile on top and season with a good grind of freshly ground black pepper.
  • Sliced or crumbled over salads & grains: any green salad can benefit from some nice slices of pickled egg. Or, crumble some pickled egg on top of rice,  pasta or cooked vegetable dishes.
  • Egg salad:  try making your favorite egg salad dish with pickled eggs instead of plain hard-cooked for a zingy change
  • Topper: Chopped pickled egg on top of potato, tuna or chicken salads, veggie dishes and dips
  • Sandwich topper: Slice a pickled egg onto a meat sandwich. Really kick it up a notch and top it all with crunchy vinaigrette slaw.

All Right-ey. Now that you know you can cook your eggs all at once and store them ready to eat for months, there’s no reason to hold back!  Dye all the eggs you want and enjoy this handy way to amp up the flavor and protein content of your meals.

What’s your favorite way to eat pickled eggs?

This post is part of Simple Lives Thursday. What’s that you ask? It’s an ambitious and enlightening collection of posts from bloggers all over about issues near and dear to my heart: real food and natural living. Check it out!

How to Live a Life of No Regrets

How to Live a Life of No Regrets

Monday Moo-sings: In which we share random farm happenings, snapshots & recipes

 

xOnly one way to take Beatrice’s picture: catch her when she’s sleeping…

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“There is only one thing about which I shall have no regrets when my life ends.  I have savored to the full all the small, daily joys.  The bright sunshine on the breakfast table; the smell of the air at dusk; the sound of the clock ticking; the light rains that start gently after midnight; the hour when the family come home; Sunday-evening tea before the fire!  I have never missed one moment of beauty, not ever taken it for granted.  Spring, summer, autumn, or winter.  I wish I had failed as little in other ways.”

xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx-Agnes Sligh Turnbull

Play, eat, sleep, repeat. These kids definitely savor to the full all the small, daily joys.

Babies like to nap together on a big pile of hay. Bovine daycare for frazzled Moms.

Fritz & Google rise & shine

Suzette is a perfect lady, always polite and demure

Max says a good power nap and a few big stretches works wonders

Why do we call him Google? No idea except he’s kind of funny. Check out those teeth!

Bess says just because she’s a year old now doesn’t mean she isn’t funny anymore…

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Well Bess, I can’t deny the truth in that. You ARE a funny girl.  OK people, you have your mission. What small, daily joys have you appreciated?

Cows with Jobs: Uncle Pat Goes Hollywood

Cows with Jobs: Uncle Pat Goes Hollywood

Monday Moo-sings: random farm happenings, snapshots & recipes

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Look what big lugs Zig and Axel are today...

I’ve mentioned this before, but maybe you forget. Some of my cows come from a long line of well trained working cows.  Devons have long been a drover favorite because of their hardiness and peppiness – they are the fastest walking breed of cow you know.

Of course, just like work for humans is different than it was 200 years ago, cow jobs are a little different too. Visit Colonial Wiliamsburg, Historic Brattonsville, Mt. Vernon, The Farmers Museum and you’ll see oxen acting out the jobs their ancestors used to do so we can remember the way life was way back when.

If you’re paying attention, you’ll notice Devon cattle in the movies and on TV here and there.  The lure of Hollywood is great – when it pays off, it pays big, but sometimes you have to wait on a lot of tables to become an overnight sensation….

M.J. Knight from Ulysses Livestock Conservancy in Pennsylvania once took her entire herd to be part of the cast of The Village. Not your typical day at the office.

And Uncle Pat from Ox Hill Devons has now gone full time Hollywood.  Hit the big time. No more hash slinging for Pat. No sir-ee.

I call him Uncle Pat because he is Uncle to our steer,  Zig and Axel.  Zig and Axel were two of our very first calves and my word are they a pair of gentle giants today. Their mothers, Zay and Suki were the daughter and granddaughter of Pat’s mother and aunt. Pat was trained by Howard and Andrew Van Ord from Russell Pennsylvania and with his mate Willie has traveled far and wide demonstrating the value of oxen and Devon cattle.

Well, wouldn’t you know, late in life Pat got a big promotion. You can check it out here:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lHs-lBNTEQ0&feature=player_embedded

I think it’s safe to say Pat isn’t letting Hollywood go to his head.

I mentioned Pat’s new gig to Zig and Axel at dinner and they didn’t really seem to be all that interested. Well, apparently I was mistaken because later, when everyone else was out butting heads and wrestling around, where were Zig & Axel??

Zig & Axel tell me they’re too busy polishing their resumes and looking for agents. They say they’ll have their people get in touch with my people….

The St. Patrick’s Day Party Never Ends: Creamy Corned Beef Spread

The St. Patrick’s Day Party Never Ends: Creamy Corned Beef Spread

Have I told you yet about my other mother,  Darina Allen?  Of course, Darina Allen doesn’t know we’re related, so shhhh; let’s keep it right here.  But really, who better to eat with on St. Patrick’s Day weekend than “the Julia Child of Ireland” herself?

It pains me to imagine, but if I could only have one cookbook, I think it would have to be hers.  Forgotten Skills of Cooking: The Time-Honored Ways are the Best – Over 700 Recipes Show You Why;  well, the ridiculously long title tells the whole tale.

The Allens live on a beautiful 100 acre Irish farm with a herd of Kerry & Jersey cattle, laying hens, a kitchen garden, plenty to forage, and a famous cooking school. Darina can teach you all about foraging, how to amaze your friends by making stuff like butter, ham, rose syrup, separating cream after you’ve milked the cow yourself and a gazillion beautiful things made with eggs warm from the hens. It is the real, old school, farmstead deal.

Of course, I’m looking at my menu, and have to laugh because while the meal (and my life) is totally inspired by Darina Allen, the corned beef recipe is actually from Michael Ruhlman and my favorite cabbage recipe is from Tyler Florence.   I know. But the traditional Irish boiled potatoes and the Irish Soda Bread are straight from Darina’s book.

Corned beef with mustard sauce, traditional Irish boiled potatoes, braised cabbage & Irish soda bread...

A good Irish meal is one that is not particularly cheffed up.  It is more about the very fresh, very flavorful ingredients, prepared simply but with care.  And the dairy products need to be first rate. I’m not kidding – go for the really good butter like Double Devon if you can find it, or Kerrygold, Organic Valley Pasture Butter, or Plugra. One or all will surely be found at most modern grocery stores these days. Even better, if you have some local farmstead butter, well, lucky you.

Don’t balk at the price if you’re not in the habit of buying good butter. The rest of the ingredients in this meal are pretty cheap so go ahead and splurge; you’ll still come out ahead. You owe it to yourself to at least know what butter is supposed to be.

Then, if you think it’s overrated and that you’d rather have some soda or Cap’n Crunch instead, at least I can rest knowing you’ve made an informed choice.

I know that while my meal was lovely and the day beautiful, you’ve been pounded with corned beef, cabbage and green stuff all week. It’s a new week now, and time to move on to something else.  Except for one thing; all that leftover corned beef.

Last year, for St. Patrick’s day I made corned beef tongue and corned beef hash.  This year, I went the tongue route again, but still, while the flavor is great, I just don’t enjoy the texture. The hash worked well because the meat was cubed & crisped with potatoes and carrots.  But that’s so last year.  This year, I decided to go for corned beef spread. Click here for a printable recipe.

The unmistakable taste of corned beef and grainy mustard in a creamy spread.

And I’m glad I did.  Grinding meats to use in sauces, spreads, fillings, sausages and such is an invaluable way of stretching meat as far as it can possibly go. All while concentrating the meaty flavor exponentially.

Do you have an especially good way to put a bit of minced meat to work?